February 2009

Go ahead, try to *not* smile!

by DaniGirl on February 27, 2009 · 10 comments

in Lucas, Tristan

Playing with Flickr’s (relatively) new video sharing option. Aren’t baby laughs the best?

(Lucas and I had just picked up Tristan from a birthday party when we discovered that balloons are the funniest. thing. ever! The boys were laughing so hard I had to get out of the van and catch it on video.)


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So you know what I’d like to do? Not today, not this year, but maybe once the boys get a little older and I have a bit of free time on my hands again?

Raise a couple of chickens in the back yard.

(waits patiently for gales of laughter to subside)

No, really! Back at the end of December, I read an article in the Citizen about the urban chicken movement, and I was intrigued. According to what I’ve read, the chickens are reasonably low maintenance, actually good for your back yard, and two hens will produce eight to ten fresh eggs a week. How cool is that? Educationally amazing for the boys, healthy for us, good for the environment, minimal effort on my part — I love the idea.

I know my mother is rolling around on the floor laughing as she’s reading about this, and Beloved – who to his credit has gone along with just about all of my schemes and capers with nary a whimper of complaint – has flat out refused to even talk about this. He hates chickens, except when they’re on the barbecue with a good coating of tandoori marinade. I admit, I’m a little creeped out by them myself. But if they were our chickens, that would be different, right?

This blog about urban chickens gives an idea of the amount of work involved:

  • Everyday: fill the food bowl, change the water, check for eggs, add wood chips to the nesting box if needed. (takes 5 minutes)
  • Twice weekly: empty the droppings out of the Eglu, very easy to do by design, thanks Omlet! (takes two minutes)
  • Weekly: clean the Eglu by rinsing and scrubbing the interior parts (20 minutes)
  • Semi-monthly: purchase 50-lb bag of layena crumbles at the feed store (cost is $12 and is worked in with other errands)

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? (An Eglu is a chicken coop specifically designed for urban chickens. A lot more aesthetically pleasing than your standard chicken-wire and wood coop, no?)

My only concern would be the Ottawa winters. Not chicken-friendly. Not only is it bloody cold for a bloody long time, the last time I checked there was about a foot of snow in the back yard (not to mention, erm, about three months worth of dog poop.) And even if by some stretch of the imagination I was able to convince Beloved to let me keep a couple of chickens in the back yard, there is no way on gods’ green earth that he’d let me overwinter them in the house or even the garage.

(Not to mention the tiny but insistent voice in my head that keeps yammering on about the poor, hapless house plants I bring home from the grocery store in a fit of enthusiasm every five or six months, only to neglect into withered brown stumps within a couple of weeks.)

What do you think? Excellent idea or pure folly? Would you do it?


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Hey, can you believe I’ve already made it ten per cent of the way through my Project 365 year? Look, 36 pictures for 36 days, and I haven’t missed one yet!
Project 365:  one-tenth of the way done!

1. 1:365 Snowglobe, 2. 2:365 Peek!, 3. 3:365 The morning commute, 4. 4:365 Club soda, 5. 5:365 Lucas and me in the colander, 6. 6:365 Lego StarWars Family Portrait, 7. 7:365 Comfort food, 8. 8:365 Lucas in the morning light, 9. 9:365 Snowy night, 10. 10:365 Sunlight, snow and shadow, 11. 11:365 Coloured pencils, 12. 12:365 Snow removal crew, 13. 13:365 Happy Birthday Simon!, 14. 14:365 Icicles up high, 15. 15:365 Picture window, 16. 16:365 Icicles in the sun (3 of 4), 17. 17:365 Toes, 18. 18:365 Cornstalks in the snow, 19. 19:365 Happy Birthday, Lucas!, 20. 20:365 Friends and family at Lucas’s birthday breakfast, 21. 21:365 Winterlude on the Rideau Canal, 22. 22:365 Bored room, 23. 23:365 Melty, 24. 24:365 Vote for me!! Vote for me!!, 25. 25:365 Mooning the Peace Tower, 26. 26:365 Snack time!, 27. 27:365 Winter day at the park, 28. 28:365 Pest, 29. 29:365 Parliament in pink, 30. 30:365 Vote for our Mom!, 31. 31:365 President Obama’s afternoon motorcade, 32. 32:365 Me in the fancy elevator, 33. 33:365 Long exposure skating lessons, 34. 34:365 Poladroid Lucas, 35. 35:365 The artist at work, 36. 36:365 Mardi bokeh and the thief

There are two pictures of which I’m particularly fond this week. First, there’s this one of Tristan drawing, which he does with at least half of his free time each day. Lookit that free-hand star he just drew — I couldn’t do that with a template to follow! (He’s drawing Cosmo and Wanda from “Fairly Odd Parents.)

35:365 The artist at work

And I love this one, too. For a change, rather than simply finding inspiration in whatever was around me, I had taken the time to set up a light source and a background, and was playing with depth-of-field and focus to get some “bokeh” from these Mardi Gras beads… when suddenly the beads started disappearing! Sheesh, a girl can’t even take a picture without some random baby coming by to pilfer her subject. I couldn’t resist the two-fer composite shot:

36:365 Mardi bokeh and the thief

36 down, 329 to go… are y’all sick of Project 365 yet?


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The internet really is full of a lot of crap, yanno? For all the great things you can say about the internet — the wonderful information and connections and ideas and whatnot — mostly it’s just a giant time sink, massively full of drivel through which you have to wade hip-deep for days before you can find that one bright, sparkly bauble.

I want to show you my latest bauble. Pretty, shiny thing — almost entirely pointless, but undeniably clever and it made me smile. What more can you ask for? It’s called Poladroid, and it’s my favourite photo toy since Flickr.

You take an ordinary photo like this:

Could I be any cuter?

**pauses for oohs and ahhs of adoration to subside**

… and you drag-and-drop it into the little Poladroid widget that looks just like an old polaroid camera and sits pleasantly on top of whatever you’re working on, waiting to be of service. (You have to download the applet to your computer, but trust me, it’s totally worth it!!) When you drop your photo in, the Poladroid makes this satisfying old-skool click and whir, and then it spits out your digital polaroid. At first, it looks like a big sepia blur but as the image slowly resolves — just like a real polaroid — you can grab and shake your polaroid with your mouse. Too cute by half! And in the end, you get this:

34:365 Poladroid Lucas

Just the faintest tint of sepia, and how great are the textures? I love this, and now I’m actively looking for cool shots that need the Poladroid treatment. Fun!!!


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Ah well, thanks anyway…

by DaniGirl on February 23, 2009 · 6 comments

in How I love the Interwebs

Congratulations to Katrina of Fickle Feline, winner of Mabel’s Labels “send a blogger to BlogHer” contest! Her award-winning entry is terrific, she seems like a lovely person, and I’m genuinely thrilled that she won.

Although I no doubt made a pest of myself with my multi-media campaign to garner your votes, I have to admit that I’m both disappointed and a little bit relieved to not be the big winner. The idea of heading off all by my lonesome to a girlie-fest of famous bloggers frankly scared the socially-awkward pants off of me, much as I really wanted to go. And I’d’ve fretted the whole time about leaving Beloved and the boys behind, sad though that may sound.

I owe every single one of you that voted for me a heart-felt thank you, though, and sloppy wet smooches to those of you who really stepped up by tweeting or even blogging to scam a few more votes for me. And I’ll gleefully thumb my nose at those of you who simply rolled your eyes and hoped I’d stop with all the embarrassing grovelling already. I had fun campaigning for your votes, and I hope you did, too.

Congratulations, Katrina, and thanks again to the folks at Mabel’s Labels! You should buy their stuff – I do!


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Wow, it’s hard to believe that it’s been just over six months since I started my “Plan B” weight-loss plan. (And, for goodness sake, did none of you think to mention at the time that “Plan B” is a morning after pill as well? It took me months to figure out the google traffic!) Anyway, at the time of my last update back at the beginning of December, I’d just reached my goal weight of 170 lbs and hoped to be down to 160 lbs by the time I went back to work. Well, it took a little bit longer than that, but can you believe that for the first time since Beloved and I met back in 1995, I’m below 160 lbs?

In six months, I’ve lost almost 35 lbs (!!) and 6 inches off each of my waist, my hips and my bust, plus another inch or two off my thighs and even my arms. Woot! And to be totally honest with you, I’m not really even trying anymore but the weight keeps trickling off. Remember all those clothes I bought for back-to-work on Boxing Day? The pants and skirts are all too loose on me now! (Which begs the question: is it worthwhile to bring them in to be altered? Or do I have to re-buy in the next size down? And can you please just tolerate me bragging for one more second while I tell you that for the first time in my adult life I’m now wearing a size TEN in jeans?!? That’s down from a very snug 16 just six months ago!)

So because a few of you have asked me, here’s the six-month overview of how I lost 35 lbs without losing my mind!

  1. Sugar is evil. I think the number one most important thing I did in the active weight-loss part of this diet is cutting out as much sugar as possible. That means not only no cake and (whimper) cookies and chocolate bars, but really reading labels and trying not to eat anything that has fructose, glucose, maltose, honey, molasses or any other sugar derivative in the first five ingredients. In the first couple of months, I ate so little sugar that when I did eat a doughnut, my stomach actually ached. Now that I’m in maintenance mode, I’m a little more liberal with the sugar, but if my weight starts to creep back up, it’s going to be the first thing to go.
  2. Cut way, way down on refined carbohydrates and starches: bread, cereal, rice, pasta, crackers, pitas, oatmeal, tortillas, all that wonderful stuff. I tried to eliminate white flour products entirely and choose whole grains whever possible. (Whole grains are absorbed into your bloodstream much more slowly, leaving you feeling satisfied longer, and are altogether more healthy for you. And remember: multrigrain does NOT mean whole grain.) This was the hardest one for me. I’d eat one serving of organic heritage whole grain cereal for breakfast, and two other choices with dinner. Now it’s just routine, but a low-carb lunch was nearly impossible for a sandwich-lover like me at the beginning!
  3. Fat is not the enemy. (Sugar is the enemy.) I’ve kept a lot of full-fat foods in my diet, and I think they’re the reason I feel like I’m eating like a real person instead of eating rabbit food all day long. In the last six months I’ve eaten enough nuts, avocados and cheese to sink a ship. Seriously, not a day goes by that I don’t eat cheese of some sort. It’s so satisfying! And I’m not afraid to fry up some mushrooms in a little butter and oil for dinner, or drizzle a little oil on my veggies, or skimp on the salad dressing. Now, I’m not saying you should deep fry everything, but the official doctor-prescribed diet I was on called for five servings of fats per day, and I actually had to step up my fat consumption to meet it.
  4. Think whole: whole grains, and whole foods. Whole as in “not processed” or processed as little as possible. Real foods, as they come from nature, are better for your body than any chemically-altered pseudo-food advertised as low-cal or low-fat. Rather than eating a frozen entrée for lunch – which, by the way, is nearly impossible to find without some sort of pasta or rice or other enriched-grain product! – I’d cut a whole red pepper into slices, eat it with hummus (protien) and a couple of pieces of cheese (protien) and a glass of vegetable cocktail. My favourite lunch is either one of those mini-cans of spicy Thai chili tuna or a couple of ounces of sliced smoked salmon with a couple of ounces of cheese and a big handful of cherry tomatoes. In other words, the fewer ingredients the better.
  5. Don’t let yourself get hungry. In the beginning, I’d eat first thing in the morning (my 2/3 cup of cereal – and because it’s whole grain and full of fibre, there’s no sugar crash and I feel full for most of the morning), then around 10:30 (usually either a hard-boiled egg or a banana), then lunch, then another snack around 3:00 (often 10 almonds – surprisingly satisfying!), and dinner around 5:30.
  6. Dinner is for “normal” eating. Because I’d been careful most of the day, dinner did not really change much over what I used to eat. Hamburgers (home-made, of course!), fajitas or tacos, chicken parmasean with spaghetti, chili, pot-roast and veggies, hearty soup with crusty bread, even pizza… these are a few of the staples in our dinner rotation. Again, the key is moderation and portion control. And loading up on the veggies!
  7. Speaking of fruits and veggies, the last thing I’ll say is that it was a lot easier to load up on veggies when I started this back in August in the midst of harvest season than it is now in the dark heart of winter. I’m really trying to stick with organic produce wherever possible while also respecting a 100-mile rule, but there’s only so much you can do in Canada in February when you’re addicted to tomatoes and red peppers!

I really hope this doesn’t come across with the evangelical zeal of the recently converted reduced, but I am still rather shocked by my own success and am more than happy to share it. So far, even three weeks of sedentary cubicle life hasn’t had the detrimental effect I’d feared, and I’m the same weight today that I was back in 1995 when Beloved and I first met. Not bad, being on the cusp of 40 with the body I last saw at 25 — and three giant babies later, to boot! I guess I’ve earned the right to brag just a little bit. *grin*


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Stephen King disses Stephenie Meyer

21 February 2009 Books

Y’all know I pretty much worship the pages Stephen King writes upon. And I’ll admit that I got pretty well sucked in by the first book of the Twilight series, while gradually losing my enthusiasm through the next three. But I found the idea of a Stephen King smackdown of Stephenie Meyer particularly delicious. Apparently […]

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Stalking Obama- recap (and finale)

20 February 2009 Life in Ottawa

In the end, there is no way I could have resisted the gleeful excitement that was POTUS’s first official visit to Ottawa yesterday. Through the morning, I watched the conversation on twitter, including updates from media types on the buses headed toward the airport to greet Air Force One when it touched down. And how […]

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Stalking Obama – reprise

19 February 2009 Life in Ottawa

I was there! I stood about 10 feet from Barack Obama’s motorcade and I actually SAW HIM!!!! He was waving and smiling to the crowds through the window! It was so unexpected and delightful and CLOSE!!!! I debated the whole time I was standing there whether to go with still photos or video, and in […]

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Shameless, I am. Completely incorrigible.

19 February 2009 How I love the Interwebs

I just can’t help myself! Hey, if you won’t vote for me, do it for them. Don’t make my brazen exploitation of my kids be in vain! (Truth be told, they were great sports. Tristan’s developing a fine sense of humour, and as soon as I told him it was a grownup joke, he was […]

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